Audi Environmental Foundation
The company’s commitment is also evident in the actions of the Audi Environmental Foundation, which was founded with five million euros of charter capital. Its goal is to promote the protection of nature and the environment as well as promoting science and research. Its primary areas of support are the protection of natural habitat for humans, animals and plants, promoting scientific studies that contribute towards a sustainable human-environment system, the development of environmentally compatible technologies and campaigns and activities for environmental education.
One of the first projects supported by the foundation is a long-term scientific study related to the international Oak Forest research project. The Oak Forest project was launched five years ago in Kösching Forest, a large forest to the north of Audi’s Ingolstadt plant. It is a large-scale, long-term experiment that will be conducted over a 100 year period. Since that time, trees have been planted at various Audi sites. The project goal is to study the optimal conditions for tree growth and how to create biodiversity in response to changing climate conditions.
A mature oak forest stores large quantities of hydrocarbons and provides habitat for many types of animals and plants. It provides an ecosystem for hundreds of organisms. In addition, oaks are very resistant to climate conditions. “In our project, we want to find out how to optimally plant trees so that they bind hydrocarbons in the best possible way and create good conditions for achieving biological diversity,” explains Dr. Dagobert Achatz, Managing Director of the Audi Environmental Foundation, which is financing the scientific study related to the project.
The test areas are cultivated in a special layout based on preset GPS coordinates. The English oaks were placed in concentric circles known as Nelder circles – this makes it possible to study different stand densities within a small space. There are around 500 trees in each Nelder circle. Partners of the Audi Environmental Foundation on this project in the Kösching forest are the Bavarian State Forestry Service and the Chair for Forest Yield Science at the Technical University of Munich, which are responsible for scientific support and analysis. A total of around 36,000 trees were planted in the test area.
In conducting the research project in Kösching Forest, the Audi Environmental Foundation has set a process into motion that will span generations. Trees grow slowly, and they live much longer than people. Therefore, sustainable use of natural resources is a fundamental principle of the project. Together, the partners are assuming responsibility for ensuring long-term preservation of the areas cultivated for the large-scale experiment over the next 100 years.
Thousands more trees have been added since the pilot project near Ingolstadt, including at Neckarsulm and the international sites Győr in Hungary and Sant’Agata Bolognese in Italy. Researchers planted 10,000 oak seedlings in a new trial site near the Belgian site in Brussels in early 2012. Further trees were added at a new trial site in the highlands of Mexico in September 2014. Numerous partners are participating in the Oak Forest project. Around 100,000 trees have been planted so far - and the goal is to plant even more.
In December 2014, the Audi Environmental Foundation launched a further species conservation project that aims to convert disused transformer stations into towers of biodiversity. The pilot phase of the “Stelen of Biodiversity” (Towers of Diversity) project came to a successful conclusion in 2015 with the selection of three transformer towers in Baden-Württemberg, Bavaria and Thuringia. They were extensively remodelled with expert support from the all-volunteer association “Species Conservation in Franconia”. In addition to specifically protecting species, the project also aims to reach as many people as possible outside educational institutions on this important issue.
The former transformer stations provide valuable habitats for a wide variety of animal species, including those on the endangered list – in Ittlingen, near Heilbronn, these include pipistrelles, barn owls and little owls. To make visitors and hikers aware of the environmental conservation measures, artist Michael Horn painted large-format animal and plant motifs on the repurposed transformer tower. An information panel explains the project and the animal species for which it has provided a habitat.
A flyer provides an overview of the conservation project and the three “towers of biodiversity”. QR codes give access to a virtual tour of the species conservation project complete with comprehensive information. In Suhl and Bad Staffelstein, the two other project locations, interested parties can also use multimedia to find out more, for example by observing wildlife via webcams.
The Audi Environmental Foundation is also supporting a beekeeping project of the Julius-Maximilian University of Würzburg known by its acronym HOBOS. This stands for HOneyBee Online Studies, an online learning platform that is unique worldwide. It provides an opportunity to look inside two real beehives by video and observe the behaviour of the animals scientifically. He set up an online-based lab with video and thermal-imaging cameras and sensors, enabling him to study selected aspects of the world of bees.
In 2015, Prof. Jürgen Tautz presented his findings in conjunction with the Audi Environmental Foundation in a book entitled “Die Erforschung der Bienenwelt” (“An Exploration of the World of Bees”). From the starting of a new colony of bees through their multiplication to interaction in the honeycomb, the publication presents an in-depth study of the complex way in which a bee colony lives. It also highlights the huge significance of bees for the entire plant kingdom.
Through the partnership, a new high-tech beehive, the “smart HOBOS”, will be set up at the Audi production site in Münchsmünster from spring 2016.